The Vine

EPA Showdown Coming This Week
September 13, 2010

Congress is in session this week and it's not likely that any energy legislation will come up, much less pass.

Should We Start a Solar Panel Trade War with China?
September 09, 2010

These days I do believe we're supposed to hail China as our clean-energy overlords. The country now produces half the world's wind turbines and half its solar panels. How did the Chinese do it? Partly through aggressive renewable-energy laws and various incentives for budding tech industries. And that's to be expected—as long as fossil-fuel externalities go unpriced, renewables are always going to need a little boost. But, according to Keith Bradsher of The New York Times, there's another side to this story.

In California, Climate Politics Are Tricky... For Republicans
September 08, 2010

Conventional wisdom holds that global warming is a losing issue for political candidates. But that's certainly not the case in California, where Republicans are actually getting into trouble for opposing the state's climate law: A November ballot measure that would rescind California's landmark global warming bill until unemployment drops significantly has become an albatross for the Republican candidates for governor and U.S.

Reform the IPCC? Really, Why Bother?
September 07, 2010

Does the world's leading climate-science body need to be revamped? That's basically been the consensus position among observers over the past week (see, e.g., the Times). It all started when the Amsterdam-based InterAcademy Council released its independent review of the IPCC. Prior to this, few people had ever heard of the InterAcademy Council—it appears to be an obscure organization that releases grand scientific pronouncements every now and again.

Why Vermilion Isn't Another BP Disaster
September 03, 2010

At this point, it's safe to say that the explosion on the Vermilion platform in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday won't be another BP disaster. The AP has a handy comparison of the two accidents. And, after talking to a few people about this, here's some more context. BP's Deepwater Horizon platform, recall, was a drilling rig, boring down and developing a well that was 5,000 feet below sea level. By contrast, Mariner Energy's Vermilion platform was operating in shallower water—340 feet—and it isn't a drilling rig.

Another Rig Explosion In The Gulf
September 02, 2010

Not good. Some updates from CNN: An oil rig has exploded 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana… The accident took place 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana on the Vermilion Oil rig 380, which is owned by Houston-based Mariner Energy. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough tells CNN that all 13 workers involved in the rig explosion are accounted for, but one person is injured.

The Earth's Busted Up, Yet Humanity's Doing Just Fine. Why Is That?
September 01, 2010

Here's a paradox for you. Most ecologists would agree that we're ravaging the Earth's natural resources at an unsustainable rate—and pushing up against some dangerous thresholds in the biosphere. (See my old piece on planetary boundaries for the gloomy version of this tale.) Broadly speaking, the planet's ecosystems are in terrible shape, and this is widely believed to have negative consequences for humanity. And yet, at the same time, human well-being has never been better. People are living longer, healthier, and richer lives.

Could Reid Resurrect the Renewable Standard?
August 31, 2010

First it looked like the Senate might pass a big comprehensive climate-change bill. Then we found out, no, there weren't 60 votes for any such thing. Well all right, greens muttered, why don't we just settle for a cap on utility emissions and a renewable electricity standard? Nope, not enough votes for that either. Ooookay, well how about a bill that at least regulates the oil industry, what with all that gook bobbing around in the Gulf? No, no, and… no.

The Skeptical Environmentalist Is... No Longer Skeptical?
August 30, 2010

Now this is a pretty striking about-face: The world's most high-profile climate change sceptic is to declare that global warming is "undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today" and "a challenge humanity must confront", in an apparent U-turn that will give a huge boost to the embattled environmental lobby. Bjørn Lomborg, the self-styled "sceptical environmentalist" once compared to Adolf Hitler by the UN's climate chief, is famous for attacking climate scientists, campaigners, the media and others for exaggerating the rate of global warming and its effects on humans, and the

Man's Inhumanity To Mann
August 30, 2010

Of all the pet causes by climate skeptics, the obsession with Michael Mann has always struck me as one of the weirdest. Most of the broader public probably has no idea who Mann even is—he was one of the climatologists who created the "hockey stick" graph that used various bits of proxy data (such as tree-ring samples and ice-core measurements) to reconstruct global temperatures over the past 1,000 years. Mann and his co-authors found that the current spate of global warming is unprecedented during that time span.